(director/writer: Talya Lavie; cinematographer: Yaron Scharf; editor: Arik Lahav-Leibovich; music: Ran Bagno ; cast: Tamara Klingon (Irena), Dana Ivgy (Zohar), Nelly Tagar (Daffi), Shani Klein (Rama), Yonit Tobi (Tehila), Meytal Gal (Liat), Yuval Segal (Boaz, Base Commander), Lior Weinberg (Guy Shefi), Eyal Heina Gali (Tzahi), Dana Meinrath (Anat), Moshe Ashkenazi (Eitan), Elad Smama (Meir), Heli Twito (Livnat); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Eilon Ratzkovsky; Zeitgeist Films; 2014-Israel-in Hebrew with English subtitles)

“Black Comedy. “

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A very good debut directorial and writer effort by Israeli filmmaker Talya Lavie, who served in the IDF. Her military satire was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the narrative competition. It also won six Israeli Oscars. The black comedy is set on a remote desert military base in Israel, and in particular at the human resource office (where the featured women recruits serve coffee and snacks to officers and work as Postal NCOs and as Paper and Shredding NCOs). The anti-military jokes reminds one of M*A*S*H, but there’s a far darker side to it that might turn off some viewers aboard only for the broad comedy. It amusingly follows how a small group of chatty, alienated, drafted females serve as office workers and deal with an ambitious overbearing sergeant, military bureaucracy and boredom. But things darken when it reveals how the unbalanced girls begin to manifest strange actions during their military stint.

It should be noted that in Israel two years of military service is mandatory for 18-year-olds of both sexes.

Daffi (Nelly Tagar) is a timid unhappy camper at the remote Shizafon artillery base, who is incompetent doing even the simple task of shredding papers. When not being a cry baby, Daffi puts all her energies into writing to the army’s chief of staff to transfer her to Tel Aviv. Her best friend is the sullen Zohar (Dana Ivgy), who is equally unhappy and incompetent. Zohar is more actively rebellious. The pair spend their time together playing video games and undermining the authority of their army career-minded boss, Sgt. Rama (Shani Klein). Rama is told by the no-nonsense base commander Boaz (Yuval Segal) that he will recommend for a coveted officer’s position someone who is outstanding and suggests that Rama make the best of her opportunity during the upcoming office inspection. Of course, the insolent recruits sabotage the inspection and ruin any chance of Rama’s plans for a military career.

In the opening chapter, the lovesick Tehila (Yonit Tobi) gets on the base posing as a soldier. When she’s rejected by the soldier (Moshe Ashkenazi) she wants to again hook up with him after a brief fling and lost contact, she commits suicide. Her unfunny death signals a series of dark episodes for the female administration soldiers. The dark moments and the slapstick blend together, and that leaves the engrossing pic with a questionable and uneasy surreal look. One of the strangest scenes among many, is when the seemingly together Russian blonde Irena (Tamara Klingon) sleeps in Tehila’s empty bunk and the next day weirdly becomes possessed of her ghost and goes frighteningly weirdo clinging to Zohar for companionship.

The way the slacker paper-pushing female soldiers interact with the combat-ready male soldiers on the artillery base, offers a good set up for all the unexpected things that happen. That coincides with the unleashing of a keenly observed wit.